Grants have been made possible through mission support giving for over 17 years totaling more than a half million dollars. Grant applications are received by the Witness and Service Ministry Team and awarded based on the outreach the funding will accomplish. The story that follows tells of an inspiring ministry that got it’s beginning because of grant funds available and how it thrives today. The story is written by the founders and the current program director.
Over ten years ago a small Welcome and Outreach committee at Arndt’s Lutheran Church in Forks Township, PA was looking for another ministry that could use their resources. Many brainstorming sessions and several “town hall” style chats drew the congregation to the idea that their greatest resources were their caring commitment to each other, a thrifty nature, and a physical space that wasn’t being used during the day. Pennsylvania is a state with a growing senior population, yet many people are not ready for supportive care such as assisted living, day care or nursing care. Their suburban location and congregation is populated with older adults who they believed yearned for social contact as a means to support “aging in place”.
The congregation came together to modify their existing spaces using funds predominantly from a Transforming Congregations grant and a Witness and Service grant, which are both mission support grant programs and were available through the Synod. Transforming Congregations was specifically for new missions, and it enabled the physical space changes that created a physically safer and more welcoming environment for the target population. Many items needed came as gifts from God and from the community. Today “Open Arms Senior Connection” continues as a two-day a week program for older adults in the greater Easton, PA community. Open Arms as it is fondly known creates a caring and comfortable place for older adults.
The success of this program is in great part due to two paid co-directors and all the volunteers. The program runs on a budget of about $1000 per month which goes toward daily beverages and snacks, basic supplies, and salaries. Donations, fundraisers and Witness and Service grants from the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA has allowed this program to reach and provide long term benefits to hundreds of older adults in the region.
The congregation set out with an idea, made a plan, found Synod available grant funding to support and continue to dedicate themselves to this important ministry. Many family members of the Open Arms participants have said that the program provided so much to their mother or father, aunt or uncle. Because of Open Arms, aging in place in the Easton area is enhanced.
Submitted by Founders: Nancy Walters and Karen Beverly
Fast forward 8 years and to say that Open Arms benefits the older adults it serves is quite an understatement – in fact most days the program is equally beneficial to both the directors and volunteers. In fact, we have grown to think of the regular participants as extended family members – we may only see them two days each week, but we continue to hear how important the program is in their lives. Realizing that the time some of them spend with us at Open Arms might be the only times during the week that they enjoy a meal with someone, or have any human contact at all, inspires us to make the program as effective and impactful as possible.
Many of our volunteers have been with us since the inception of the program, and we certainly could not have survived this long without the many hours given by these dedicated individuals.
Volunteering at Open Arms extends far beyond the doors of Arndt’s Church – we often visit those that are sick or hospitalized, shop for them, mend clothing, provide transportation when needed, or call to check on someone that we haven’t seen for a few days.
Our program begins each day with refreshments and a word puzzle, all in a seasonally decorated room. Then we spend time sharing caring thoughts for those in need, commemorate happy events, and then sing a few old-time songs. Then we move to playing a variety of games, ranging from train dominos and canasta, to pinochle, Rummikub and Uno. Everyone breaks for a packed lunch after which the games begin again for the afternoon. Once a month we also enjoy an afternoon of merchandise Bingo.
Additionally, once a month the volunteers prepare a meal for everyone to enjoy, at which time we have dessert to celebrate the birthdays from the current month. Pastor Jean Huber, from Arndt’s Lutheran Church, also holds an informal church service with communion each month.
We also try and introduce new activities to our seniors – gentle chair yoga, a clinic to administer flu shots, and during the holidays we host a visit from Santa and his elves. This is in addition to a variety of topical speakers and programs throughout the year. The activities are advertised and detailed in a monthly newsletter we prepare and mail to all our seniors.
Our community outreach program extends outside of the walls of Arndt’s Church – we regularly send birthday cards to the residents in Tower 5 at Gracedale Nursing Home, and prepare more than 50 seasonal crafts to deliver to residents of 5th floor. When these items are delivered, we also spend a time visiting with the residents.
None of this happens without support – we continue to hold various fund-raising activities throughout the year to help supplement the generous donations received by the program. And without the efforts of the Welcome and Outreach Committee at Arndt’s Church, and funding from the mission support grants, Open Arms would not be able to continue the impactful and meaningful work outlined above.
If you would like more information on how to start this type of ministry, please contact Pattie Corcoran @ email@example.com. Please find a bulletin insert on the website for sharing.
Submitted by Pattie Corcoran and Alice Lefebvre-Program Directors